Among 19 industrialized nations that have high rates of increasing housing costs, the United States (with an average annual rate of 8.5 percent) ranks 17th.
This is one of the statistics included in a compilation made by E. Jay Howenstine, an international research co-ordinator for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. His study reflects costs between 1970 and 1980.
In the United States, almost two-thirds of the dwelling units are owner-occupied and the other one-third are rental units. The most striking fact about new housing costs in the 1970s was that all industrialized countries had high rates of price increases. They ranged from a low of 4.8 percent in Switzerland to a high of 17.3 percent in New Zealand.
The U.S. rate of increase was less than one-half that of the highest rates -- the United Kingdom (17.1 percent) and New Zealand (17.3 percent).
To a large measure, the degree of housing inflation reflects the general inflationary trend of a nation's economy. Thus West Germany and Switzerland, with the lowest annual rates of increase in their Consumer Price Index (5.7 percent) also have the lowest rates of increase in housing costs.
A second significant comparison is that the average rate of increase in construction labor costs was lowest in the United States at 6 percent. As a matter of fact, the United States was more than 3 percentage points lower than the next country, Sweden at 9.7 percent. Here's how other countries fared in this category (in percent): Switzerland, 9.7; Finland, 11.3; Denmark, 11.4; Canada, 11.7; Portugal, 14.5; United Kingdom, 15.0; Ireland, 16.3; and Austria, 17.1.
As for increase in the cost of building materials, the United States was among the countries with the lowest rates of increase. West Germany had the lowest rate of increase at 4.6 percent followed by (in percent): Austria, 7.5; Japan, 8.2; United States and France, 9.0; Canada, 9.4; Denmark, 10.4; Norway, 10.5; Sweden, 11.0; Australia, 11.7; Portugal, 12.2; New Zealand, 13.2; Finland, 13.9; United Kingdom, 17.1; Belguim, 17.6; and Ireland, 17.8.
In another category, the average annual rate of rent increase, the United States had the lowest rate, despite the fact that rent controls are more widespread and persistent in Europe.